Physarum Telam combines nature-inspired computation, physically based light transport, and interactive rendering to fuel a dialogue about data visualization. Through it we probe the relationship between scientific data and the computational methods used to show and interpret it.
Physarum Telam uses an interactive 3D visualization of cosmological data as a canvas, inserting into it a number of portals that reveal an alternative view of the data: as a translucent yellow blob mimicking the appearance of Physarum polycephalum. The aesthetic of this ancient organism – which itself served as a template for the algorithmic model of the data – dramatically changes the perception of the visualization from generic to strangely alien, without modifying the data at all.
Given that visual style impacts our reading of computer-visualized data to such an extent, how many decisions are impacted by arbitrary aesthetic choices? Can we hope to someday create canonical formalisms that rid us of these ambiguities?